Have you ever heard of the client accountability gap? Probably not. Why? because I may have just made it up (as far as I know). However, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about as I explain it below. In fact, you're probably got some ideas about what it is just by the name. What do you think of right away?
When a client buys from you they receive your product or service. Correct? Does it end there? In a perfect world, maybe. The client needs to take ownership, take action, take accountability, put their new purchase to use. Does it end it end there? Not quite.
The client accountability gap occurs when the client buys your product or service and sometimes they put it to use and sometimes they don't. Even if they did or didn't put your product to use, they still come back and put the accountability on you, even though you fulfilled your side of the deal. Can you think of a time when a client bought from you, sat on their new purchase with every good intention in the world to put it to great use and just never did?
That's all fine and dandy...until the client doesn't implement, has buyers remorse (because they didn't receive enough value from the sales exchange) and wants to return it! You've probably already recognized that revenue, thinking the client got what they literally paid for and that was that.
Or, can you think of a time that your client bought from you and did put your product or service to use? In fact, not only did they put it to use, but you also fulfilled, had regular communication and the client even enjoyed the results of all that your product or service promised to deliver, right? And even still, the client decided to cancel the service and even had the audacity to ask for a refund! But why?
Did you not deliver as promised? Did they not receive the outcome they were looking for? After all went according to plan, yet, they still want to cancel? That doesn't make any sense, does it?
What can be done to help bridge the client accountability gap? Here are five tips that you may consider.
Be Consultative About After the Sale
As you're nearing the close of the sale, be sure you continue your differentiating consultative approach. This can occur as you and your client are talking about the benefits they'll enjoy once they have your product or service. If done right, the client is telling you about how they will go about doing this. As you listen, be sure you consult with your client about things they may not have considered through your experience and feedback from other clients that are making the most of what they purchased from you.
For example, if your product or service helps them get new business, have you discussed with the client what their plan is for capturing and converting new inquiries into revenue? Have they considered training their team members on:
Informing them that you're investing into your business and what that investment entails
How to capture every phone call with a smile
How to ask how the caller heard about their business
How to convert every call into a customer
How to record every phone call for quality assurance
How to take ownership and maximize their implementation and use of their newly purchased product or service from you
Go the Extra Mile
It seems that after your client buys from you, your work does not end there. Are you simply in business to take orders from a transactional exchange? Or are you in business to build relationships and loyal client followings to the point that you feel like you're simply working with your friends? After all, people like to do business with people they like, don't they? Once your client has received your product or service, it is important to ensure they are having a great experience. Reach out to them.
Ask them how they are enjoying their purchase. Ask them how you can help them implement this into their business (if that's not part of what you do already). Take them by the hand and give them the attention and confidence they need to take action they've always intended on.
Take it a step further and do what Jeffrey Gitomer has been suggesting for decades - ask them why they bought your product or service. Record every single word they say. Capture that from their perspective. They will share insight about your product and how it served them as the end user that will go deeper than you're probably used to. This is gold!
Clients buy with the best of intentions to solve their problems. Does that mean that their problems are solved? Often times, it's far from it! Next is that you need to follow up with your client, even after they bought. You need to ensure they are putting your product to use or implementing the service you provide. Easier said than done, I know.
At some point, the client must take accountability, shouldn't they? In the perfect world and in many cases, yes. However, you still need to follow up several times if you have to. Just like you, clients are busy. If you want them to keep what they bought, this is going to be the next step that needs to happen, it's what it is.
Cater to Your Client's Needs
Catering to the needs of your clients means that you need to get to know them, almost as well as they know themselves. When you're an expert at what you do in your business, you could do that in your sleep. Its basically second nature to you. You need to become second nature to your client. They're looking for an experiential outcome.
Many of them don't know it, however they need you to provide this outcome for them so that they feel great about the experience. This takes work and knowing your client. It's as if you're reaching out, following up, and consistently keeping top of mind to the client, offering to help them with things they didn't realize they needed, yet it was the next natural step in their progression with your products and services.
Lastly, and through it all, you've got to take ownership. You've got to help your clients bridge the the client accountability gap. Yes, you sold them your product. It's no doubt that you provided a solid solution sales experience where you were talking to the right people, asked quality questions, helped the client feel valued in the exchange and they were able to make a competently educated buying decision. Still, the client will hold you accountable.
Within an extra mile reasoning, don't fight it. If you do, neither you nor the client will achieve the desired outcome that either of you are looking for. If you embrace the client accountability gap by leaning into it, you will build deeper relationships, you will learn more about your end user. More than the features and benefits of your products and services, closing the client accountability gap will become easier for the next client. Rinse and repeat.
As you do, your products and services will become more sticky. Your client experience will generate referrals (and even more if you've earned the right to ask for them), and lead to repeat business. where your clients will come back again and again and will be happy to pay for it.
So I ask you - what are you doing to bridge the client accountability gap in your business?